This week's episode of the Bridechilla podcast is all about adding non-traditional details to your wedding celebrations. I'm joined by Bridechilla Graduate and Wedding Coordinator Erica Greenwold Reisen from Folie à Deux Events who shares some of her favourite ways to mix up the program and add some extra personality and surprises to your wedding day. It's great to think outside the box especially with the format of your day.
We are so used to the "normal" way of organising the day, guests arrive, arrival of the bridal party and couple, Ceremony, cocktail hour and then reception... that when someone does something different it seems very risqué when in fact that is part of the fun of being a Bridechilla you can do whatever the hell you like!
Listen to episode 287 of Bridechilla
A popular alternative to the standard wedding format is the Wedding Weekend. Plan a variety of events with your guests over the course of a weekend. This is a great option for those with a lot of guests coming from out of town or if you are doing a destination event. By having multiple smaller events you have more time to connect with your guests. A wonderful example of this is Bridechilla Cali’s San Francisco Wedding Weekend complete with a BBQ in a park, a trip to wine country, a dance party, and brunch!
Pop Up Wedding
For our more introverted Bridechillas & Groomchillas who aren’t exactly looking forward to a huge event or being the center of attention, maybe a smaller more spontaneous event is for you. Pop Up weddings are usually pre-planned packages for a small event in a unique location and the planner handles all the details for your event. All you do is book the pop up wedding and show up with your guests! Pop ups are usually a step above just eloping and make it easy to throw a little celebration with your close friends and family. There are wedding planners who specialize in Pop Up Weddings and you can learn more in our recent blog post all about Pop Up Weddings!
Styled Elopements are also another option if you want something more than just getting hitched at the courthouse but don’t want to throw a huge soiree! Pick a rad location, find an officiant, some witnesses and that is all you really need - but hiring a cool photographer and a stylist to design the elopement can make it feel extra special and personal. You can still have a celebration with your friends and family later too, but if you want your ceremony to be private, this is probably the best option for you!
If you do plan to have a standard one-day wedding event and just want to place more importance on your ceremony, it’s great if you can get your guests more involved. Make the ceremony a bigger part of the day by making it more interactive and less performative. One of my favorite ways to include your guests is the Quaker wedding tradition of a ceremony in the round (everyone is in a circle) and your friends and family are invited to speak if they feel moved to. The ceremony itself is more about supporting and uplifting the couple getting married. Traditionally Quaker ceremonies are also Self-Uniting (no officiant) but that may or may not be legal where you are, but the part where your friends and family share can be added to any wedding!
Another tradition that can be adapted to get your family and friends more involved is the Jewish tradition of the Seven Blessings. Invite seven of your friends or family members to give a blessing for your marriage. Even though this particular tradition is religious, you could absolutely adapt the idea for a non-religious or interfaith wedding.
Hand fastings are another cool way of changing up the ceremony format. Traditionally speaking, the hand fasting would be performed as a betrothal ritual and sometimes used to publicly renew your vows. Religious ceremonies would be held as well, but the Hand fasting was performed in front of your community who would also make promises to support you and your relationship.
Ditching the Ceremony/Reception Format Entirely
At most weddings, your guests arrive and file into seats to watch you get hitched. Why not shake it up a bit and have your ceremony during the party? This works great if you are having a more informal cocktail party or an intimate dinner party or restaurant wedding. Mingle with your guests, share some drinks and food, and then have your ceremony sometime in the middle of the event. By removing the traditional elements like the processional and a separate ceremony location your event will feel less structured, and less like a show you are putting on for your guests.
Reshaping the Traditional Ceremony
Arriving to the ceremony together or even greeting your guests can be another nice way to break from tradition. Greet your guests as they arrive! Even if you still plan to do a formal ceremony with a processional, welcoming your guests as they arrive is a great personal touch. You could even wait to put on your dress so it's still a surprise!
Creating a fully customized ceremony incorporating your values, culture, and interests can make your ceremony more unique and meaningful. Go beyond just writing vows and write a mission statement for your marriage. Do not feel limited to the standard ceremony script!
Have a First Look
Most of these format breaking suggestions rely on the assumption that you are ok with seeing your fiance before the ceremony. We recommend a first look not only because it makes coordination of your day a bit easier, but it can be great if you are feeling nervous or anxious to have a moment with your fiance before the ceremony.
Pot luck dinner or desserts can be a lovely way to get your friends and family involved your wedding! Communal or family style dinner service can also change the feel of your reception to be more intimate and engaging for your guests.
Have an open mic at your reception and invite friends and family to share songs, poems, or even a stand-up set at the reception! If you have a musical group of friends, a sing-along or karaoke could be a lot of fun!
In short, there are so many ways you can introduce non-traditional details into your weddings. Most importantly, never feel limited by a format, tradition, or societal norms. Take what works, ditch or re-work the rest!